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March 23, 2008



Meeting Notes

The March 16 meeting was a good mix of instruction and music. Peter DiGiovanni presented a fun, instructive workshop on how to play from a fakebook (see his handout reproduced below), and led the group through a few pieces taken from various fakebooks.

Afterwards Joan Grauman handed out some Irish pieces for everyone to play together in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day. Several soloists performed as well.



Photos from the WMAS holiday concert have at long last been posted on the Web site. Photos from the AAMS festival of March 7-9 will be posted soon. Check out the photo album at www.washingtonaccordions.org. And don’t forget to check the calendar for our meeting schedule and events around the area, as well as festivals around the world.

Accordion Bibliophiles

Joan Grauman will be giving a one-hour presentation on the accordion Tuesday, May 13, at 7:30 p.m. at the Fairfax Library. The program, for “bibliophiles," will cover books, old sheet music, ephemera, etc. Afterwards she will play a few Frosini pieces.

The library address is 10360 North Street, Fairfax, Virginia 22030, at the corner of Old Lee. Entrances to the underground parking lot are from Old Lee and University. The library’s phone number is 703-293-6227.


By Peter DiGiovanni

Fakebook – crams a lot of sheet music in a small space. It is a collection of lead sheets comprising the main melody and supporting harmony, key and time signatures. BARE BONES versions of the selections, presented as concisely as possible. Tempo notes are generally provided, and lyrics are often provided. Rhythm is not generally indicated, nor are dynamics. The complexity of chords shown can vary greatly between arrangements of the same song. Register selection is never provided unless specifically intended for accordion. So what do you do with it?

Minimum knowledge is required – how to sightread the melody and play the accompanying harmony in the bass, along with a feel for basic rhythms and tempos. With this, you can play exactly what is written on the lead sheet. But there is lots more you can do with just a little more knowledge.

Helpful supporting knowledge – scales, makeup of as many chords as possible, bass patterns and proper accenting for various rhythms, common chord substitutions.

The performer has the freedom to embellish and improvise while playing, thereby creating his/her own interpretation of the music. The bass/harmony supports the melody, and provides the essential information needed to come up with an interesting treatment for the treble.


- Vary the pattern (a la Dale Wise Pro Notes)

- Use thirds as well as fifths (counterbass row)

- Walking bass lines, scales in the bass (“Oh Baby Mine,” etc.)

- Chord substitution, slash chords


- Add grace notes, appoggiaturas, upper and lower auxiliaries, passing tones

- Add countermelody and voice leading

- Flesh out the melody with chords as suggested by the harmony (including using inversions, especially when bass chord is not available or is inconvenient – e.g., augmented chords)

A good time to improvise around the melody is during long sustained notes. Throw in part of a scale, or a chord arpeggio, a short chromatic figure, or a bridge to the next phrase. When playing with others, observe good jamming etiquette.

Some complex chords are best formed by combining simple chords or single notes in the bass with the desired extra notes in the treble. Also nice to use unconventional chord combinations in the bass (a la Eric Schwarz). Minor sixth, minor seventh, dominant ninth, and Sus4 come up frequently and are actually quite convenient to pay in the bass and add a lot of interest to the music. Also, you don’t always have to play all the chords indicated – some are of very short duration and are actually formed by a simple chord in the bass plus a note in the melody.

Introductions and endings – rarely given in the lead sheet

Can use last measures of the song, or create an appropriate melodic figure and chord progression.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Believe your ears. This is a creative process. Compare any arrangement to a lead sheet for the same song and look for places where the arranger inserted his/her own stuff. Notice how the basic building blocks (scales associated with the current harmony and especially notes from chords from the current harmony) are ever-present in the melody and the improvisational material. You can MAKE music when playing from a lead sheet, not simply PLAY someone else’s musical arrangement.